Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thin Lizzy rock NYC 3/25/2011

Thin Lizzy 2011. From L to R: Vivian Campbell, Marco Mendoza, Ricky Warwick, Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, and Darren Wharton.
All photos taken by Nelson Onofre

Thin Lizzy
March 25, 2011 @ the Best Buy Theater in New York

Forget all of today’s crappy rock music. Forget all of those indie rock bands. Forget it all. History shows that when it comes to straight up ass kicking rock n roll concert, Thin Lizzy are one of the best. This new reunited version of Thin Lizzy rocked the Best Buy Theater on March 25 in New York City. The band are touring to pay tribute to the music of Thin Lizzy and their late charismatic frontman, Phil Lynott.
Formed in 1969, Thin Lizzy didn’t make it big until the release of Jailbreak in 1976. The band weren’t too popular here in the US but to those hard rock lovers who went out and bought a copy of Jailbreak, those fans stuck with the band for good. The band split in 1983 and three years later, Phil Lynott passed away. In 1996, Thin Lizzy reunited with guitarists Scott Gorham and John Sykes at the helm. In 2009, Sykes decided to leave the band and Gorham took the next couple of months to form a new line-up. The new Thin Lizzy consists of six members, three of which were in the original band with Phil Lynott (which lasted from 1969 to 1983). Those three members are guitarist Scott Gorham (1974-1983), drummer Brian Downey (1969-1983), and keyboardist Darren Wharton (1980-1983). The other three members are bassist Marco Mendoza, guitarist Vivian Campbell, and guitarist/singer Ricky Warwick. Mendoza has been in the reunited band many times before while Campbell has been guitarist for Def Leppard since Steve Clark’s passing (Campbell was also an original member of Dio). As for Warwick, he’s a rock band called the Almighty. Together, all six of these musicians make up the reunited Thin Lizzy for 2011.
I went to see the new band in New York City due to the fact I couldn’t make it to the other show at Penn’s Peak the night before (which is closer). Still, the venue was quite nice. There was a merchandise stand to buy t-shirts, a program, and a live CD of the current band in London. I got a t-shirt that just had the Thin Lizzy logo on it and nothing else, along with the program. The program is actually from their European tour earlier this year. Still, the writing is current. I’m very impressed with this program. Usually, program only put a bunch of big pictures and nothing else (most of the time). The program is wonderful. It has a fan written letter as an intro, then proceeds to pictures of the current band. There’s a timeline of Thin Lizzy’s history from 1969 to today and profiles on the six current members. There’s also links to Thin Lizzy sites, where you can buy more merchandise and vinyl reissues of most of the band’s catalogue (ships from the UK only but I saw them at my local record store before). Whoever made the program, here’s to you! You did a great job. Before Thin Lizzy came out, there was an opening act. I didn’t pick up their name but they weren’t bad at all. It’s not the kind of music Thin Lizzy would play. At 9 pm, the lights went out. Showtime!
L to R: Vivian Campbell, Ricky Warwick, and Scott Gorham.
Brian Downey is in the back.

After several dark sounds and effects, the band burst into their set with “Are You Ready”, a good old Lizzy classic. There was never a studio version of this song so fans should know the song from the Live And Dangerous and Life Live albums. Scott and Vivian were sounding great. The next song took me a while to recognize but I got it: “Waiting for an Alibi”, which is another great song and one of my favorites from Lizzy. Scott’s playing on that particular song sounded a bit different than the version off of the Black Rose album. Still, Scott did his thing. Meanwhile, Ricky Warwick rocked at the microphone. Let’s get one thing straight: no one can ever replace Phil Lynott. Ricky, however, is taking the role of leading this new band. Ricky did not really duplicate Phil’s vocals. He got the phrasing nailed down, which was great (in other words, the speed that Phil sang the lyrics. In short: Phil’s phrasing would make an English teacher cringe). For the entire show, Ricky did an awesome job and I do believe he’s enjoying this music. He has a lot of passion in his performance. He didn’t duplicate Phil’s mannerisms, which is good. Ricky is something different. Next was “Jailbreak”, included with sirens wailing! The next song was “Do Anything You Want To” from the Black Rose album. The song begins with the sound of pounding African-like drums. In the promo video for the song, the band is seen banging on these drums. The show was no different: Ricky, Scott, and Vivian all had something to pound on. This song went straight into “Don’t Believe A Word”, in which Ricky didn’t have his guitar and just a microphone. After this set of songs, Ricky introduced the crowd to Marco. Marco said “hola” to the audience and proceeded to play the opening bass line to “Dancing in the Moonlight”. Once again, Scott and Vivian played wonderfully. “Moonlight” went straight into the history heavy “Massacre” from the Johnny the Fox album. Ricky did great vocally on this song and kept the soul Phil put in it when played live. Ricky proceeded into introducing Darren. Darren then got the spotlight and played the intro to “Angel of Death”, which had the diehards going nuts. Darren basically showed off on “Angel of Death”. His playing at that show sounded almost exactly as he had played it on the Renegade album thirty years ago. Well done, Darren!
Guitarist Scott Gorham rocks on stage in New York
The band slowed things down with the power ballad, “Still in Love With You”. Much to my surprise, Ricky shared vocals with Darren on this one. Darren has a really good singing voice. Both Vivian and Scott got their chance to have their own guitar solos, as “Still in Love With You” has become a showcase for the guitarists. The song ended with the music fading and the lights going out. When the lights came back on, Vivian and Ricky were both playing the next song slowly. Even when slowed down, I could tell what was next: “Whiskey in the Jar”. This one was very much a sing-a-long and always has been. Vivian did a great job at playing the guitar lick. I’m not a guitar player but from what I’ve read, it’s very difficult to duplicate what Eric Bell plays on the original 1972 single. Vivian didn’t quite nail Eric’s playing but he did a damn good job. Toward the end, Ricky had the audience sing the chorus: “Whack for my daddy-o/Whack for my daddy-o/There’s whiskey in the jar-o”. After the song ended, Ricky introduced Scott Gorham. Ricky introduced him by saying that Scott keeps him up all night “telling stories of Phil and the boys back then”. The mighty “Emerald” came next, which is a amazing song when played live. The way the guitars sound like they’re being orchestrated and Brian Downey’s marching band-like drumming, you feel like you’re right there in the middle of a battle. When played live, the lead guitar duel is always impressive. Scott and Vivian were no disappointment: they had a kick-ass twin lead guitar duel. “Wild One” continued the show. It was a bit of a surprise for me personally since “Wild One” (which is a wonderful song off of the Fighting album) wasn’t played live for the two live albums Lizzy released in their career. Brian Downey got a huge round of applause from the crowd after his monstrous drum solo in “Sha La La”, a Thin Lizzy tradition in some sort. “Cowboy Song” started off interesting with Ricky playing harmonica. When the verse of “the coyote call” came up, the audience howled (Ricky asked them to by repeating the lyric). “Cowboy Song”, for me, is my favorite song by Thin Lizzy. The song was performed perfectly and it went right into the band’s most popular song: “The Boys Are Back in Town”. I’m very sure the entire audience was singing along to this classic. After the song, the band said goodnight and left the stage.
Although the band left the stage, the audience wasn’t ready to leave. The band came back on stage for two encores.  The band went into their fantastic cover of “Rosalie” (which is originally by Bob Seger). What makes Lizzy’s cover different is because their version is sped up. As usual, the live version of “Rosalie” goes into “Cowboy Song” shortly. Ricky led the crowd in a few chants of “woah-oo-oo”. Ricky thought the crowd could do better and told them to do it loud for Phil and the recently deceased, Gary Moore. The room was vibrating the chants by then. A great performance of “Killer on the Loose” followed and the band left the stage. They returned for one more song. Before playing it, Ricky said that the band would like to dedicate the next song to Gary Moore. The band then went into the epic “Black Rose”, which closed the show perfectly.
Vivian Campbell and Scott Gorham
I was very impressed with the new version of Thin Lizzy. I’d like to think of the new band as a second band. The first band was with Phil Lynott and that lasted from 1969 to 1983. Then there’s this band, also called Thin Lizzy. Unlike most reunited bands, they are not in it for the money at all. I saw video interview Marco Mendoza gave months ago and he said it the best: if he was in it for the money, he would’ve quit a long time ago. These guys really love this music and it shows in the performances. Thin Lizzy are only playing a few gigs here in the US, followed by a summer tour later in the year. Meanwhile, Thin Lizzy’s music is out…in most places. Many of the band’s albums can be found on iTunes or other MP3 music stores. If you rather have them on CD, you won’t find much in stores. Still, there are the new deluxe editions of Jailbreak and Johnny the Fox.  Whatever you get, I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

I'd like to thank Nelson Onofre for letting me use the pictures he took during this wonderful show. To check out more picture from this show (as well as other concerts), please go to the link below. Thanks again, Nelson!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bustin' Out Dead Or Alive: Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak is 35

 Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak
Thin Lizzy
Rating: **** 1/2

It was 1976. Five albums into their career, Thin Lizzy were still trying to make an impression on the world of rock music. However, something strange happened in 1976: the band’s sixth album, Jailbreak, became a success. Not only was it success in Europe but the band had finally found an audience in the US. 35 years after its release on March 26, 1976, Jailbreak stands as one of Thin Lizzy’s strongest albums (if not, one of the strongest hard rock albums ever made).
            Thin Lizzy formed in 1969 in Ireland. The band was formed by bassist/singer Phil Lynott, guitarist Eric Bell, and drummer Brian Downey. Thin Lizzy were a rock band but their first two albums (Thin Lizzy and Shades of a Blue Orphanage) were not commercial successes. Today, the albums are a far cry from the Thin Lizzy people would come to love. In 1972, the band had an unexpected hit with their rendition of the traditional Irish folk song “Whiskey in the Jar”. In 1973, the band released their third album Vagabonds of the Western World. At the end of 1973, Eric Bell suddenly left the band. He was replaced by guitarist Gary Moore to finish up the tour. When Moore left, Lynott decided that the band would need two guitarists. According to Downey in a 2011 documentary, Lynott decided to get two guitarists because if one of them left, they’d still have the other. In 1974, Lynott hired 18 year old Scottish guitarist Brian “Robbo” Robertson and American guitarist Scott Gorham. This line-up release Night Life in 1974. The band wasn’t happy with the final product as they had trouble working with producer Ron Nevison. For 1975’s Fighting, the band produced the album themselves. By that time, the band had found their signature sound: twin lead guitars. Thin Lizzy weren’t the first known to use this sound. English progressive rockers Wishbone Ash are often thought of as the first to use the twin lead guitar sound. Recording for the Jailbreak album started in December of 1975 at Ramport Studios in London.
            Jailbreak opens up perfectly with the bursting sound of lead guitars, that start off the self titled track. “Jailbreak” is easily one of Lizzy’s best songs and for various reasons. The song’s lyrics, written by Lynott, tell the story of a jail break occurring…somewhere in the town (one may wonder if it would be easier to have the jail break in an actual jail). Lynott is very clever with the lyrics where he sings “I can hear the hound dogs on my trail/All hell breaks loose, alarms and sirens wail/Like a game if you lose/Go to jail”. Also, the guitar work is brilliant. Lynott’s vocals and phrasing are very good. The pace he sings the lyrics at is interesting.“Angel from the Coast” has this California/West Coast-like sound to it. The lead guitar harmonizing is amazing in this song. Just listen to the solo. “Running Back” was originally supposed to be a bluesy-like song. Lynott wanted the song as the lead single for the album so he wanted it to sound like a commercial song. Tim Hinkley plays keyboards on the track not credited. The song does sound like something you’d hear on the radio in the summer. It’s kind of nice. Lynott once said that he likes this song very much and that he was influenced by Van Morrison. “Romeo and the Lonely Girl” is another slower song. It might be the weakest song off the album but hey, it’s still good. The chorus is worth checking out, even if it is somewhat corny: “Oh poor Romeo/Sitting out on his own-ee-o”. “Warriors” is a great song from the album and is a great song for Robertson and Gorham to show off their skills. Lynott sings some poetic lyrics here: “My heart is ruled my Venus/And my head by Mars”.
            The second half of the album starts off with what is easily the band’s most popular song: “The Boys Are Back In Town”. Originally titled “G.I. Joe”, this song was written about soldiers coming home from the war. Although some may think of it as overrated, “The Boys Are Back in Town” is a great classic rock song. The song’s popularity has lead it to being covered and rewritten for commercials (remember Toy Story 2 or Toy Story on Ice? “The Toys Are Back in Town”?). The best part in the song: Robertson and Gorham’s twin lead guitar solo after the chorus. The next song, “Fight or Fall”, is a departure from the hard rocking sound of “The Boys Are Back in Town”. Lynott’s vocals on this one are great. Thanks to technology then, Lynott’s vocals echo in this almost soulful song. The song seems to center around the idea of standing up for yourself. Lynott sings: “It’s man for man and one for all”. The guitar solo on this song is just sensational. “Cowboy Song” is another highlight off the album and like “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back In Town”, the song became one of the songs Lizzy played live frequently. The song starts off soft but builds up and starts rocking. With harmonizing vocals and killer guitar playing, “Cowboy Song” is an instant winner. The song is catchy without a doubt and for me, it’s probably my favorite song by the band. “Emerald” closes up the album rocking. I’m not just saying that: this song seriously kicks ass, especially when played live. Lynott wrote the song (as well as many of Lizzy’s best songs) based from his love for history. The opening drumming beat played by Downey is what some marching bands would play when soldiers went to war. The lyrics tell a group attempt to “overthrow the overlords”. The song ends with an impressive lead guitar duel between Robertson and Gorham. When played live, “Emerald” is a monster! A great way to end a great album.
            Jailbreak was the band’s first major hit album. In the US, it reached at #18 in the Billboard Top 200. The band also found hit singles in the self titled track and “The Boys Are Back in Town”. Thin Lizzy were able to tour and enjoy their career until they split in 1983. Today, Thin Lizzy have reunited. As of 2011, this reunited version is touring and paying tribute to the music of the band and Phil Lynott. Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, and keyboardist Darren Wharton are the three members who were in the original band with Phil Lynott. Earlier this year, Jailbreak was reissued and remastered by Universal. It was also given the deluxe edition treatment. 35 years later, Jailbreak can be seen as a gem in the genre of hard rock music. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sitting On a Park Bench: Jethro Tull's Aqualung is 40

 Jethro Tull - Aqualung
Jethro Tull
Rating: **** 1/2

1971 was an interesting year for music. Many of the albums that came out during that time often make it on lists that celebrate the best albums ever made. On March 19 (and on May 3 in the US), Jethro Tull released their fourth album, Aqualung. The album became a success and is still regarded as one of the band’s best albums. Forty years later, the album and the music on it is still as good as it was when it first came out. For its fortieth anniversary, I will go inside this amazing album.
            Jethro Tull was formed in 1967 by singer and flutist Ian Anderson. Along with Anderson was guitarist Mick Abrahams, bassist Glenn Cornick, and drummer Clive Bunker. The band’s debut album, This Was, was released in 1968 and did very little. When Abrahams left in 1968, Anderson approached guitarist Tony Iommi. Iommi stayed in the band briefly and performed with the band in December of that year for the Rolling Stones’ Rock N Roll Circus. Iommi left quickly as he was already committed to his own band, Black Sabbath.  Anderson then hired guitarist Martin Barre, who is still in the band to this day. The band’s second album, Stand Up, was released in 1969. It was stronger than the debut but didn’t do much except give the band a hit single with “Living In the Past”. Benefit followed in 1970 but that would prove to be Cornick’s last album: he left later that year. Anderson replaced Cornick with long-time friend and bassist Jeffery Hammond. Anderson also added another old friend of his, John Evan, on keyboards. With the new line-up in place, the band were ready to record their next album. The band recorded Aqualung at the newly opened Island Studios. Although the band was promised that the studio had the latest technology, they were wrong: the studio was horrid. The music sounded awful but somehow, the band was able to make the album. Anderson remembers that Led Zeppelin were also in the studio at the same time, mixing their untitled fourth album.
            The self-titled track has something in common with “Smoke On the Water”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Paranoid”, and “Highway to Hell”: it had one of the greatest opening guitar riffs ever. The lyrics, written by Anderson and his then wife Jennie, tell the story of a homeless man. The lyrics describe the character of Aqualung very carefully, even the nasty things (“Snot running down his nose/Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes”). “Aqualung” is certainly one the band’s best songs and it is indeed one of those songs that could sum up classic rock itself. The next song, “Cross-Eyed Mary”, is another gem. The song tells the story of another character, except this time it’s a female: a prostitute schoolgirl (“she signs no contract/but she always plays the game”). In the lyrics, we learn of her preferences: “Laughing in the playground/Gets no kicks from little boys/Would rather make it with a letching grey”. This might tell us that Mary prefers having sex with old men rather than men her age. It’s an unusual topic for a song but at the same time, it’s a great topic for any song. You got to love Evan’s keyboard breaks in this song. “Cheap Day Return” is one of the three short acoustic numbers on the album. Anderson wrote this song after visiting his ill father at the hospital, which sets the tone right there. “Mother Goose” is something one might call whimsical and they’d be right. The song is based off from a trip Anderson took to the Hampstead Fair. In the song, we meet a foreign student, a bearded lady, and a chicken fancier. “Wond’ring Aloud” is another short acoustic piece. In this song, Anderson sings some very romantic lyrics (Last night sipped the sunset/my hands in her hair) which just make the song what it is.
“Up to Me” is a little bit of a rocker. The lyrics are very remorseful since the person in the song has people coming up to him, thinking he should help them. Martin Barre’s guitar playing on this track is superb. “My God” is as religious as the album gets. Anderson dives deep into his belief in God and how organized religions are pretty much bogus (at least that’s what this writer and other people get out of the song). Anderson’s flute solo on here is not to be messed with: it’s amazing. “Hymn 43” is probably one of the most underrated songs by Jethro Tull. It’s a strong rocker, with more religion-strong lyrics. “Oh Jesus save me!” Anderson cries after each verse before the band rocks out in the chorus. In a word, “Hymn 43” could be called a prayer (and why it isn’t played in church services is a mystery to me…okay, maybe not!). “Slipstream” is the last of the acoustic shorts while “Locomotive Breath” chugs out as a classic song not just for Jethro Tull, but for rock music itself (specifically progressive rock). The album couldn’t have a better closer: “Wind-Up”. The lyrics are strong and the song reaches to the level of epic. The lyrics, once again, are religion fueled about organized religion and just people in high power in religion (in other words, it could sum up the religious themes on the album). With a lyric like “He’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday”, how can you go wrong?
            Aqualung did fairly well in the charts. It peaked at #4 in the UK and at #7 in the US. For Jethro Tull, Aqualung was a boost in their career and it was much deserved. This renewed interest in the band and even introduced some people to the great music of Jethro Tull. Critics praised the album at the time and still do. However, there are those critics who believe that Aqualung  is a concept album. Ian Anderson denied this decades later, saying that he doesn’t consider it a concept album (despite the religious themes and the instrumentation). In 1972, Jethro Tull have the critics a concept album for sure: Thick As A Brick, which some believe is the band’s best album. No matter what, Aqualung is a classic album. It’s one of those albums you can just listen to over and over again without getting bored. For me, Aqualung ranks as #21 on my list of favorite albums.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New York Dolls' "Dancing Backward in High Heels" review

 New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
The New York Dolls
Dancing Backward in High Heels
Rating: *** 1/2 or ****

When the New York Dolls reunited in 2004, not too many people thought that it would last very long and that it would just be a one-off gig. When bassist Arthur Kane passed away, it seemed as if the reunion was off...but it wasn't. In 2006, the reunited band released One Day It Would Please Us To Remember Even This. The album, for many, was a surprisingly good album as it sounded like an album the original Dolls would've made had they had not broken up. In 2009, Cause I Sez So was released to mixed reviews. Although the band had worked with producer Todd Rundgren (producer of the debut album in 1973), the album was a bit too experimental for some. The band's new album, Dancing Backward in High Heels, is already receiving mixed reviews from critics. If you're expecting an album like the original two albums the Dolls made in the 1970's (New York Dolls and Too Much Too Soon), you'll probably be disappointed. This reunited New York Dolls are a bit different from the original band. Singer David Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain are the only original members in the band still. Everyone else (Johnny Thunders, Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, and even early drummer Billy Murica) are all dead. Still, Dancing Backward in High Heels is a very good album.

The entire album feels and sounds like a 1950's or 1960's R&B record that probably would've been produced by Phil Spector...done in the style of the New York Dolls. For example, the opener "Fool For You Baby" sounds something from the 1950's but it's also like some the Velvet Underground would've made for 1970's Loaded (The "ba-ba-bas" make it sound like "I Found A Reason"). "Streetcake" has some sweet lyrics, in which David Johansen sings "I'm so sweet like the New York Dolls". "I'm So Fabulous" is a bit of a funny song that sounds like something the band could've made in the 1970's. The story behind the song is actually explained by Johansen in the track before ("Fabulous Rant", which they shouldn't have made its own 26 second track). The song pretty much disses people living in New York who think they're all that when in reality, they aren't. "Talk to Me Baby" has a really nice groove to it. The same can be said for "Round and Round She Goes". "Funky But Chic" is a real hip shaker and sounds much like old-school Dolls. It should because this song was originally recorded by Johansen on his debut solo album back in 1977. This re-recorded version sounds a little different and the song does indeed live up to its title: it's funky...but chic. There are a few slow songs that go nowhere like "Kids Like You", but are still decent. A strong slow song on here would have to be "You Don't Have To Cry". "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" is a hilarious song off the album that sounds like a parody of girl groups produced by Phil Spector. The title alone is classic. The band goes reggae at the end of the album with "End of the Summer".

Dancing Backward in High Heels is worth a listen if you are a fan of the original New York Dolls. As mentioned before, don't expect it to be anything like the band's first two albums. If you are reading this and don't have those two albums, go and get them. The two previous reunion albums aren't bad either. You can catch the New York Dolls on tour this year, opening for Motley Crue and Poison. Meanwhile, enjoy Dancing Backward in High Heels.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kiss' Destroyer is 35

 KISS - Destroyer
Rating: ****

In 1975, Kiss had finally hit the big time. Their double live album, Alive!, had sold over a million copies and reached Gold status almost instantly. The four members in Kiss (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss) were now suddenly superstars. With the success of Alive! someone, as Paul Stanley said years later, would be hiding under a table thinking of how to follow up such a great live album. The band found their answer in recording a new studio album. The band recruited producer Bob Ezrin. Ezrin was already known for producing many albums by Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother (and three years later, The Wall). Ezrin got the band to work. Little did that band know that they were making another great album. That album, Destroyer, was released on March 15, 1976. 

The album opens with a very strange intro. It sounds like a person eating their breakfast and watching the morning news before hoping into his car. There, he turns on the radio and nothing but the hit live version of "Rock And Roll All Nite" is being played. The third time he switches the dial, we hear some dual guitar action. The music gets louder and we are welcomed to "Detroit Rock City". The song is one of Kiss' most popular songs ever. Its rocking and the lyrics of "Get up!" and "Get down!" make "Detroit Rock City" an instant Kiss classic. The song has reached the same status of "Rock And Roll All Nite": you can't leave a Kiss concert without hearing it. The crash at the end of the song goes into the next song, "King of the Night Time World". The song is another strong one for Kiss and is one of two songs on the album co-written by Kim Fowley. "God of Thunder" is, again, another live favorite. For over three decades, the song has been Gene Simmons' theme and is usually the song he performs after his bass solo/blood-spitting routine. The song was actually written by Paul Stanley and he was planning on singing on it for the album (there is an outtake of him singing it that appears on the 2001 Kiss box set). However Bob Ezrin suggested to Stanley that Simmons would fit with the song much better, along with playing the song at a slower tempo. The children you hear in the song is actually Ezrin's sons, David and Josh. Meanwhile, "God of Thunder" is great. The song meets up to its epic proportions and it does make sense that Gene sings it. "Great Expectations" is a unique song due to the fact that there's a whole choir and orchestra on the song. On paper, it doesn't seem like a song Kiss would undertake. However with the help of Ezrin, the song was made possible. Kiss didn't perform the song live until 2003 during the band's special performance with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, which is the show that became Alive IV.

 "Flaming Youth" could be one of Kiss' most overlooked songs. The song was released as a single but it failed to become a hit. Still, a lost gem off the album. The guitar solo on the song isn't Ace Frehley: it's Bob Kulick. Kulick almost got the job as the guitarist of Kiss before the band met Frehley. However when Frehley started not showing up, the band had Kulick play on songs that Frehley hadn't completed.  "Sweet Pain" might be the weakest song off the album but it's still good. Once again, the guitar work is superb. "Shout It Out Loud" is another anthem for the band. The song has great lyrics right from the start: "Well the night's begun/And you want some fun/Do you think you're gonna find it?/You got to treat yourself like number one/Do you need to be reminded?". Lyrically, "Shout It Out Loud" is almost like "Rock And Roll All Nite Part 2" but in the context of the sequel not being a rehash of the original (example: The Godfather Part II or The Dark Knight). "Beth" is the unexpected hit off the album. The song is a short ballad written by Peter Criss about two women: his first wife Lydia and Becky, the wife of one of Peter's former band mates in the group Chelsea (pre-Kiss band). The song was originally titled "Beck" but it was changed to "Beth" since it sounded better (and to avoid any confusion with Jeff Beck!). "Beth" was placed as the B-side of "Detroit Rock City" but quickly, radio DJ's started playing "Beth". "Beth" is a wonderful song and Criss' performance is great. The album's last song, "Do You Love Me?", is another classic. Being the second of two song co-written with Kim Fowley, the song deals with a rock star and his girlfriend. His girlfriend is getting all these wonderful things thanks to her him but it all comes down to one thing: does she love him? Stanley screeches at the end "I just gotta have some love!"...

Destroyer was another best seller for Kiss. The band had officially followed up Alive! thanks to Bob Ezrin, good song writing, and an unexpected hit single with "Beth". Currently, Destroyer sits at #145 on my list of favorite albums. That may sound a bit low/high  but there's no doubt that Destroyer is a highlight in the discography of Kiss. 

Anvil set release date for new studio album

Canadian metal band, Anvil, will have an album out this year. The album, Juggernaut of Justice, will be released on May 10 on The End Records. This will mark the band's first album since 2007's This Is Thirteen. The band were able to record the album in Dave Grohl's Studio 606, with producer Bob Marlette at helm. Anvil are now considered to be one of the most influential metal bands of all time. Their sound and speed influenced bands like Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, and Guns N Roses. Anvil were under the radar for a decade until 2009 when the critically praised documentary Anvil!: The Story of Anvil was released and renewed interest in the band. The tracking list for the album has also been announced. The songs are:

(taken from Blabbermouth.com)

01. Juggernaut Of Justice
02. When Hell Breaks Loose
03. New Orleans Voodoo
04. On Fire
05. Fuckin' Eh
06. Turn It Up
07. The Ride
08. Not Afraid
09. Conspiracy
10. Running
11. Paranormal
12. Swing Thing

The End also plan to release an anthology collection of Anvil's material before the release of the new album. Anvil will reappear on VH1 Classic's hit show That Metal Show in its seventh season.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Phil Collins announces his retirement

Phil Collins has announced his retirement from the music business. The 60 year old member of Genesis has cited his health as the main reason for his retirement. In late 2009, Collins revealed that he could no long drum as a result from shoulder, where his vertebra in his neck had been dislocated. When interviewed by Rolling Stone in late 2010, it was revealed that Collins was now focused on raising his children and researching on the Alamo for a hobby and a possible book. Collins released an album last year called Going Back. That album will most likely be the last thing Collins will release. Collins joined Genesis as their new drummer in 1970, just around the time guitarist Steve Hackett joined. With Collins, Hackett, Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks- this is considered by many fans to be the classic line-up on Genesis. This line-up released classic albums such as Nursery Crymes, Foxtrot, Selling England By the Pound, and the concept album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. This line-up ended when Gabriel left the band. Now without a singer, the band searched for one but then realized their new singer was already in the band: Collins. With Collins at vocals, the band released A Trick of The Tail and Wind & Wuthering in 1976 and 1977. Hackett left around 1978, leaving the band a three-piece band. Still, they continued to release albums and, for a first, hit singles that were a far cry from the progressive material the band had done with Gabriel. Also at this time, Collins was able to have a surprisingly successful solo career. Collins left in 1996 but Banks and Rutherford continued with singer Ray Wilson. That album, Calling All Stations, tanked and the band disappeared until 2006 when Collins, Banks, and Rutherford reunited for a world tour.

While this news is a bit of a bummer, it should come as no surprise. Phil can't drum and we knew that since 2009. He was able to attend the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame induction of Genesis but he and the band did not perform. This is especially a bummer for those people who were holding out on a reunion of the classic line-up of Peter, Steve, Mike, Phil, and Tony. As I've reported before, Peter has had a fascination in touring and performing the entire Lamb album. Without Phil in the band and retired, chances seem very small of just Peter, Steve, Mike, and Tony reuniting. Still, they need a drummer. I think their best shot is calling up Chester Thompson, who served as the band's touring drummer from 1978 till the last tour in 2007, to be the drummer. Still, I'm not holding my breath for a reunion. When I read that article about Phil last year, he seemed very depressed. I hope Phil doesn't become a rock n roll reclusive like Syd Barrett (R.I.P.), Captain Beefheart (R.I.P.), and possibly Slade's Noddy Holder. I think I'd like to wish Phil the best of luck in the rest of his life. While I'm not a fan of his solo work, Phil has sure have left an impression on progressive rock music as one of the greatest drummers ever. Good luck, Phil. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pulling the Strings: Metallica's Master of Puppets is 25

 Metallica - Master of Puppets
Master of Puppets
Rating: **** or **** 1/2

It was 1986. Heavy metal music was very popular but in different forms. On one side, you had the glam metal bands. These bands liked to dress feminine and put on a hell of a show. For the other side, dressing up like a chick didn't mater. Their attitude: go on stage in your street clothes and play ass kicking metal. This would probably best describe Metallica, a metal band who were just making it. In 1986, the band released their third album entitled Master of Puppets. Today, the album is regarded as one of the greatest metal albums ever made. Now 25 years after its release, a majority of fans regard the album as Metallica's finest album. 

By 1986, Metallica were in their third line-up. This line-up had been together since 1983. Metallica consisted of guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, bassist Cliff Burton, and drummer Lars Ulrich. The band already had two albums out by that time: Kill 'Em All in 1983 and Ride The Lightning in 1984. When it came to recording Master of Puppets, the band recorded the album at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was where the band had also recorded Ride The Lightning a few years back. Lightning's producer Flemming Rasmussen was producing again. The album was recorded in four months from September till December of 1985. 

"Battery" opens the album with some beautiful acoustic guitar work. According to one source, there are four acoustic guitars in that opening of the song. This lasts for a while until the bass and drums join in creating a heavy melodic sound. Then in a little over a minute, it's time to get down to business: the song suddenly morphs into a thrash metal song. The lyrics in the song deal with anger, aggression, and violence. With lyrics like "Smashing through the boundaries" and "Pounding out aggression", "Battery" is an instant Metallica classic. The self-titled track is, without a doubt, one of the band's best known songs. Also, it's probably the strongest song off the album. The lyrics are wonderfully written and who cannot like the calls of "Master! Master!"? Also, Kirk Hammett plays a wonderful solo. According to James Hetfield in 2008, the song is about drugs and how they end up controlling you. "The Thing That Should Not Be" is an interesting song musically. The music goes back and forth in sections. When James sings, Lars the only one playing but soon enough the music gets heavy. The lyrics revolve around mythology and evil. The lyric of "In madness you dwell" is almost poetic. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" is another great song. According to Hetfield, the song was inspired by the 1975 movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. The lyrics are being told to the listener by a person in a mental asylum. The song's deep sound gives the listener the feeling that this is being told from an asylum.

The next song, "Disposable Heroes", might be one of the band's most underrated songs. The song is amazingly heavy as are the lyrics, which deal with war itself. Hetfield sings the truth: "Soldier boy made of clay/Now an empty shell/Twenty one only son/But he's served us well/Bred  to kill not to care/Do just as we say...". Wow, that's deep and could probably be considered relevant to today. The calls of "Back to the front" are probably of a careless war dog. Once again, Hammett shines in the solo. "Leper Messiah" is probably the weakest song off the album but still, it's a great song. Burton's bass playing on this is a little hard to hear but with a song like this, he must've been playing away (as he does on the whole album). The lyrics in this song, once again, are strong. "Orion" is a wonderful, maybe too long, guitar instrumental. Hammett gets to show off a lot on this one. The album's closer, "Damage Inc.", is one of the most brutal songs ever made by the band. The lyrics are violent but the message is for the listener to decide. The song may have to do with corporations and how they suck the life out of things. "We chew and spit you out": that's heavy! Blood will follow blood...

Master of Puppets did a lot for the guys in Metallica and allowed them to continue making music. However on September 27, 1986, tragedy struck the band: While the band was on tour in Sweden, the tour bus they were on had flipped and crashed on the side. Everybody survived...except Cliff Burton. Burton had been crushed to death and died instantly at the age of 24. The driver may've been drunk but the driver insisted there was black ice on the road (which there wasn't). The band continued with Jason Newsted. With Newstead, the band were able to continue and enjoy their success. As of now, the band has bassist Robert Trujillo who joined in 2003 to replace Newstead. Metallica still perform today and are planning to record a new album.

As of now, Master of Puppets is at #64 on my list of favorite albums. It's a wonderful album and definitely worth listening to.